Just kidding! I generally dread calling customer service. You know the feeling when you brace yourself to press buttons, answer an automated voice asking why you’re calling, and finally talk to someone who may or may not be able to help you. But sometimes it’s really good. I had to call a company recently about an $875 bill they charged me without my permission. My blood pressure started to rise when the first person I spoke to told me the company didn’t do anything wrong and I would be responsible for the bill. The second person made my day. She offered right away to fix everything and thanked me for being a customer. This is the second time I’ve experienced great customer service from this company. I’m now a fan.
The Wall St. Journal recently published a list of the 250 best managed companies in the US1. An accompanying article revealed what the top companies did best2. The secret ingredient, it turns out, is listening to your customers. You wonder sometimes why a big study needs to be done to come up with an answer that seems pretty obvious. Those companies that listen to and take care of their customers will have customers coming back for more. And that’s how companies make more money. It turns out many of these companies are also leaders in the stock market. This is what I call the sweet spot of business – finding a way to make a lot of money by making the lives of people better.
There is a type of investing that focuses on companies making the lives of people and the world a better place. It’s called socially responsible investing. It often includes measures like how a company treats customers, employees, communities, and the surrounding environment, the governance structure of the board (what sort of incentive packages are set up for management, are there diverse voices to keep the company from being too insular, etc.), and what kinds of products and services the company makes or provides. Some choose to invest this way because of a concern for the environment or communities. Others invest this way just because it makes good business sense.
No matter how you invest, I hope more companies learn the lesson of great customer service. I’d love to be able to call customer service someday without preparing for an unpleasant experience. In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning more about socially responsible investing, let us know. And if you have a great or terrible customer service experience you want to share, feel free to write to me at: email@example.com.
1 Wall Street Journal, “Management Top 250” December 3, 2018, pp R4-R6.
2 Wall Street Journal, “Seven Companies That Do Everything Well” December 3, 2018, p. R2.